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Liz Jaques 

BT offers new customers YouView for free

BT has announced plans to offer a free YouView set top box to new BT Infinity customers.

Broadband customers not in an Infinity-enabled area will also be able to get a free YouView box when they subscribe to TV Essential, which starts at £4 a month.

The telecoms company said YouView will be available with all of BT's TV and broadband packages from 26 October. Existing customers will also be able to upgrade to YouView for £49.

BT was forced to buy YouView boxes from Humax to meet its launch deadline. Fellow YouView partner TalkTalk has already started rolling out its boxes, made by Huawei.

BT boxes were being supplied by another company, Pace, but it is thought they did not meet BT's requirements, however the company is still planning to use the Pace box, which is expected to be smaller and faster, when it is ready.

TalkTalk's offering also includes a free YouView box for its Plus customers, as well as the TalkTalk Player and a 12-month subscription to LoveFiLM instant. TalkTalk Plus costs £14.50 per month (and from £9.50 per month line rental).

YouView boxes have been available to buy in retailers for £299 since the end of July but as partners in the connected TV project - alongside broadcasters ITV, BBC, Channel 4 and Channel 5, as well as Arqiva, the communications infrastructure and media services company - BT and TalkTalk have been planning their own bundled services for months.

Lord Sugar admitted at the official YouView launch earlier in the summer that BT and TalkTalk were experiencing "technical issues" were their packages but it is hoped that BT and TalkTalk's offerings will significantly add to the take-up of the new service. Their customers will receive additional content via their YouView box, such as films and sports.

BT announced it results for the first quarter to 30 June 2012 on 25 July, with revenue down 6% to £4.48 million. The company added 85,000 retail broadband customers in the quarter, representing 50% of the broadband market net additions of 170,000. The group added over 150,000 BT Retail fibre broadband customers and the customer base currently stands at more than 700,000.

At the time, BT confirmed plans to launch its own YouView service, which it hopes will "appeal to customers looking for the next evolution of the Freeview service".

BT is promoting its YouView proposition as offering more than 100 digital TV and radio channels; seven day catch-up TV allowing customers to scroll-back and catch-up across all the channels from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5; on-demand content from BBC iPlayer, ITV player, 4OD, Demand5, Milkshake and NowTV; and access to BT Vision.

Alex Green, director TV, BT Retail, said: "This is a fantastic offer. Customers will now be able to enjoy BT's super-fast fibre broadband with a YouView box and TV Essential pack all for £18 per month. With YouView from BT not only can customers experience a great new way to watch TV they will also be able to access a huge range of on-demand content from BT Vision."

Despite BT's headline offer, customers will be expected to pay a £49 activation charge, £6.95 delivery charge for the hub and line rental fees.

To get a free YouView box customers will need to sign up to BT Infinity/BT Broadband and BT Vision Essential (rising to £5 per month on 5 January) - both with a 12 month minimum term. They will also need a fast-enough line and a BT Home Hub. According to its website, BT Infinity's top 100Mb offering, which is currently only available in some areas of the UK, costs £35 plus line rental charges from £10.75.

The company also admits in its small print that "quality of content depends on local transmitters, a suitable rooftop aerial and availability of digital channels" - and contains a note about charging for some on-demand content.

BT Vision's general manager of products and propositions Damien Read will be on the business models and platforms panel at MediaTel's Connected Consumer event on Monday. Delegates will also be able to test all the latest connected TV technology, including all three YouView boxes, at iBurbia tomorrow. To get one of the last remaining tickets, click here.

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